“Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.” And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! . . . Only be strong and courageous.” ~ Joshua 1:13-18
It doesn’t take long after the Lord’s commissioning of Joshua in the early verse of chapter 1 for things to get complicated. In this second half of chapter 1, Joshua reminds the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh that even though they were in their promised place of rest, their work was not yet finished. Why? Because the other nine and a half tribes of Israel were not in their promised place of rest on the other side of the Jordan. Because Joshua’s predecessor, Moses, had commanded the men of valor among the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh that when the time came, they were to leave the comfort of their homes and help their brothers possess the land of Canaan.
Talk about a hard “ask!” Hey men, I know you’re enjoying your rest here on this side of the Jordan, building a life with your wives and kids and fields and livestock. But we’re going to need you to leave for some indeterminate period of time to engage in all manner of dangerous missions, risking death while following an untested leader so that your brothers can find their place of rest on the other side of the Jordan. What do you think?
Well, we know how admirably they responded. How would we respond? Would we leave our place of comfort and rest to help our brothers and sisters? Would we submit to the authority of an unproven leader, Joshua, pledging our full obedience to him while praying for his success?
If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is probably no. After all, we’re Americans, better yet, Montanans. We don’t much care for people telling us what to do! And in some respects, fair enough. But the journey to heaven, of which the journey to the Promised Land is a picture, cannot be made alone. The nine tribes couldn’t get there without the help of the other three. Similarly, not only do we need the help of others if we’re going to find success in our journey, they need our help as well. As with the Israelites, unity and mutual support is a necessity for us.
The history of the people of Israel, including their conquest of Canaan, shows that they often failed in this regard, notwithstanding this example of the “men of valor.” Our history shows that we too often fail in this regard. Why? Because the Christian life is hard and the inevitable complications, difficulties, and challenges distract us, discourage us, and throw us off our game. What is the answer to this? How are we to avoid it? Well, we are to do and do again and again, what the Israelite men of valor did. We must say,
“All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Only may the Lord be with us…then we will be strong and courageous.”
Don’t say this just once at the beginning of your Christian life and never again. Don’t say it once a year; say it again and again. “All that you have commanded us we will do. Wherever you send us we will go.” Say it to the Lord, say it to one another, and say it to yourself, again and again.” (Robert Rayburn).